One of the most common causes of car accidents is distracted driving. Drivers often find themselves answering calls and texting while behind the wheel. The Georgia Governor’s Office of Highway Safety stated that nearly all motor vehicle crashes result from distracted driving.
The rising number of crashes pushed for the ratification of the Hands-Free Act in Georgia. Generally, most Georgia drivers know that the law prohibits cell phones while driving. However, the law is more profound than that. It is more specific on what is permitted and what is not.
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What Is the Hands-Free Georgia Act?
The Hands-Free Georgia Act took effect on July 1, 2018. The act states that drivers cannot have a cell phone or similar technology in their hands while they drive. The following is a brief description of what the law states:
- A driver cannot have their cell phone in their hands or on any part of their body. The driver is only allowed to use their cell phone using earphones, an electronic watch, or when connected to the vehicle
- While headsets are allowed, they can only be used for communication purposes, not for listening to music or other entertainment
- A driver is prohibited from sending or reading any text-based communication unless they use voice-based communication to convert it into written text
- A driver may not watch any video unless it is for navigation
- A driver may not use their cell phone or similar technology to record video However, dash cams are allowed
- A driver can use music streaming apps provided the driver activates and programs them when parked. They cannot touch their phones or do anything when they are on the road
- Hands-free law does not apply to the following electronic devices: radio, commercial two-way radio communication device or its functional equivalent, emergency communication device, prescribed medical device, amateur radio device, navigation, and remote diagnostic system
The law, however, gives a few exceptions such as:
- A driver is allowed to use their phones to report a traffic crash, hazardous condition, criminal activity, fire, or medical emergency
- If you are an employee of a utility service provider acting within the scope of your duties, you may be allowed to use your device
- First responders are exempted from the hands-free law only during their official duties
Know When This Law Applies to You and When It doesn’t
If you have lawfully parked your car, this law does not apply to you. Therefore, it is okay to pull over to use your phone.
Stopping at traffic lights or stop signs on public roadways does not mean the vehicle is parked. Thus, the law applies to you then.
How does This Act Affect Commercial Truckers and School Bus Drivers?
Commercial truck drivers and school bus drivers have a higher responsibility to observe reasonable care when driving. They are subject to strict rules regarding cell phone usage.
Commercial Motor Vehicle Operators
Commercial motor vehicle operators can only use one button to end or begin a call. They are not allowed to reach for a wireless device. They are always required to be seated or properly restrained by the safety belt
School Bus Drivers
It is illegal for a school bus driver to use a wireless telecommunication device while loading and unloading passengers.
The driver can use such a device while the bus is moving as a two-way radio to allow live communications between the driver and school public safety officials.
What Are the Penalties for Violating the Hands-Free Georgia Act?
Violating the Hands-Free Georgia Act comes with penalties. At first, the penalties may seem minor, but repeating the offense results in steeper penalties. You will be penalized one point on your license and a $50 fine if you are convicted once. A second conviction will double the fine and the point penalty on your license. In your third conviction, you will pay $150, and the state will add three points to your license record.
The second and subsequent conviction will occur if the offenses happen within two years of the first. For example, if you violate the law in 2021 and gain one point and a $50 fine and are convicted again in 2025, the first offense will not count, and the last one will count as the first one.
If you have several convictions within one year, your fines could escalate to $300 or more. Even worse, you may have your license suspended.
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Get Legal Help with George Sink, P.A. Injury Lawyers
You may have been in an accident with a driver who failed to obey the Hands-Free Georgia Act. Or, you could be charged with an offense related to this Act. No matter your situation, our lawyers can help you understand your rights and legal options.
Call our firm today at (843) 779-1777 for a free consultation and to learn more about the Hands-Free Georgia Act.